“In its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We suffered a loss of £100 million ($130 million) year-on-year, covered by our parent company DP World,” a spokesman for CNN Business told CNN Business.
“This is not sustainable. Our survival depends on rapid and significant change now,” the spokesperson added.
The summary layoffs caused a political storm, with lawmakers from both major UK parties condemning the company’s decision. The government considered the move in Parliament on Thursday.
“The behavior we are seeing today is completely unacceptable,” Air and Navy Minister Robert Corts told lawmakers.
Conservative MP Hugh Merriman, who chairs the transport committee in Parliament, called the mass shootings “horrifying” and questioned their legality.
“The government must do everything possible to ensure that this terrible job deal cannot be completed,” the statement said. DP World “must understand that UK clients will not be dealing with companies that are dismissive of their employees,” he added.
P&O Ferries said it would provide “enhanced compensation packages” to laid-off employees. It said flights would be suspended for the next few days and passengers would be rebooked with other carriers.
On Thursday, the company ordered the crew to disembark passengers and remove cargo from their ships, according to a note to employees shared by British MP Carl Turner on Twitter. The company said in a statement that “major disruptions” in ports are expected as a result.
P&O Ferries operate up to 70 flights per day between the Port of Dover in the United Kingdom and France. The port is a key driver of the UK economy, accounting for up to 17% of the country’s pre-Brexit merchandise trade, according to consultancy Oxera.
RMT, the trade union representing transport workers, suggested that before Thursday’s announcement that hundreds of its members would be replaced by foreign workers and instructed them to stay on board.
Turner, representing Hull in northern England, said an RMT officer aboard The Pride of Hull told him that at least 72 crew members were refusing to disembark. Turner said he visited the King George Dock where the ship is located and saw two buses full of agency workers waiting to board, as well as two minibuses full of security guards.
Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus International, a maritime workers’ union, called the layoffs “a betrayal of British workers”.
Suzanne Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the way the company fired employees was unlikely to win over customers.
“This could quickly turn into a serious headache for the company’s reputation as a big union struggle looms ahead,” Streeter said.
Rustom Tata, a lawyer-employer and chairman of law firm DMH Stallard, said it looks like P&O Ferries was trying to avoid a pay review with its workers and replace them with agency employees.
“For those employees who have been fired or are about to be fired, they will definitely have claims for unfair dismissal,” Tata said.
“One has to wonder to what extent the integrity of the P&O brand will be affected not only by the fact of layoffs, but also by the apparently fully planned approach applied to such a large part of its workforce, ignoring some of the basic principles. relations with employees,” he added.
UK trade has been hit by the pandemic and the country’s exit from the European Union. Merchandise trade with the rest of the world rebounded 7% below 2019 levels by August last year, while trade with the European Union remained down 15%, the Office of Fiscal Responsibility said in October.